William Asbury was born in Birmingham in 1889 to parents, William (an iron caster) and Emma. He was baptised on 7th July 1889 at St Stephen’s Church, Birmingham. His older sister, Alethea, and younger brother, Thomas, were also baptised there in 1887 and 1894 respectively.
It looks as if their father, William (senior) died in 1894 at the age of 34 and their mother seems to have died, aged 36, at the end of 1897. However, she is still listed as next-of-kin with an address of 51 Princip Street, Birmingham when the three children were all admitted to Marston Green Cottage Homes on 5th January 1898. They seem to have remained there throughout the rest of their childhoods. The Homes had opened in January 1880 to accommodate children who would otherwise have gone into Birmingham Workhouse (now the site of Dudley Road Hospital).
William remained in the Cottage Homes until 14th October 1904, when he left to join the Army, enlisting in the 2nd Battalion The King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry). Thomas was still in the Cottage Homes in 1911, aged 16, having been there since the age of three. The boys’ 23-year-old sister, Alethea, was living in Hampstead, London in 1911, with her aunt and uncle. We haven’t been able to find William on the 1911 census so, if you come across him, please let us know.
It looks as if William’s service records were destroyed by bombing in the Second World War so we haven’t been able to find out whether William left the Army after his original service period expired, and then re-enlisted when war broke out, or whether he served continuously from enlistment in 1904.
His medal index card indicates that he first entered a Theatre of War on 26th October 1914, which suggests that he wasn’t with the regiment in August 1914. At the time war broke out, the 2nd Battalion King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry) was stationed in Dublin and then landed in Le Havre, France on 16th August 1914. If William had still been with the regiment in Dublin, it’s likely that his medal index card would reflect the arrival in France on 16th August.
Bandsman William Asbury was killed in action on 20th March 1915 and is buried at Chester Farm Cemetery, Belgium. His name also appears on the Marston Green Cottage Homes war memorial.
If you know any more about William Asbury, please let us know.
Heritage and Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934